New Friend Friday #16

New Friend Friday #16

I got to tell you something. I mean really lay it out for you. And that is, these Fridays are killing me. I say this because I’ve been having the hardest time deciding who will be your New Friend Friday. Not because I’m making so many friends, but because I’m finding amazing people. I wonder if someone is stacking the deck?

Today, I find myself in classic and gold-leafed Weimar, Germany. Somehow I survived a 2 hour lead-footed, hitch-hiked, Peugeut revving ride from a lazy eyed German. The curly blonde haired man behind the wheel is Robert. He picked me up at an S-Bahn station last night and away we headed with sights set for the Bauhaus. The rear view mirror is reflecting light across his eyes like a bandits mask, but reversed so his eyes are illuminated and everything else is dark. The smoke from his cigarette crushes my pupils and pirouettes out the window. He is going to Weimar to pick up his 2 and half year-old son. Robert is a father.

In his thickly ‘sch’d’ accent he tells me that he is an architect. Even more, he is a recent graduate of the Bauhaus. ‘Oh, what a coincidence’ I think as I’m thinking about how I’d write “ ‘oh, what a coincidence’”, for this story. Now, Robert is working in Berlin doing conceptual models for an international urban planner. His latest project was a family park in Kazakhastan.

I tell Robert I’m looking for a place to stay and he looks at me wildly. Within minutes, Robert drops me off at his buddies’ parents house. The parents moved out and the son converted the 4-story house into a hostel. It turns out most of the people staying at the “hostel” are more or less long-term guests, alumni of the school that philosophize all day about Goëthe and Nietzsche.

So now I return to the beginning of the story in Weimar; remember with the goldleaf? I’m here to see the Bauhaus school cos one day I want to philosophize about Goëthe and Nietzsche and maybe even drop a little Saul Williams and Skinny Dippin (that’s the hot new ish). I get a hold of Jessie, a student at the school and he gives me directions to meet him. A quick train ride through the vernaculat countryside and I’m in Jena (pronounce Yeena) where the MFA class is de-installing their show at the skyscraping Jenoptics building. While I wait for Jessie I chat with a Peruvian gal named Andrea about the school. I let them get back to de-installing to catch some fresh air.

Across the street is a tall, fabric smoldered kid that brings me to holler ‘Jessie’, even though I have never met him. Foreshadowing in place and fate at my side, the boy turns and smiles.

Jessie Hemminger is a first semester MFA student at the Bauhaus. It’s his first time leaving the coutry let alone living in a country that doesn’t speak his native tongue. His old stomping ground is Heron, Ohio where he grew up on a farm. We rack his brain about the school and his background in art. Turns out Jessie never was in art. Art was too abstract, too liberal, too well, not farming. His dad, a traditionalist of the Midwest wanted his son to be anything but an artist. So Jessie studied Physics, then Engineering, then inched into Architecture, and when his dad wasn’t looking studied Art. But that wasn’t the real reason Jessie’s dad didn’t want his son being some whacked-out of his mind artist. Secretly his dad wanted to be an artist when he was his Jessie’s age. But nothing panned out and now he’s here on the farm.

Jessie’s project is in the small town of Jena. He’s built a life-sized camera obscura box that projects light inward onto a smaller box from everyside of the huge outer box. His camera is over 6 feet high and wide with real lens’ built into the walls. So the picture that is projected through is as crisp as really looking at it. Following the laws of convex lenses, the image is inverted, so the pictures are all upside-down. So by looking into the camera obscura, you are actually looking back into the world. Sounds zen-ful, I know, but everyday of the week Jessie meets here with grade-school to high school kids to make images and teach them about photography, physics, and public art.

The Bauhaus’s Public Art program was coincidentally sponsored by Jenoptics. Jenoptics is as it sounds, optics of Jena, the small country town we are presently in. However once Jenoptics was Carl Zeiss lenses, the best lens manufacturer in the world and perhaps the brand of lens on your parents old Brownie or Rollei. Back during communist days however, the Carl Zeiss lens factory was directly on the division of east and west, similar to Berlin. Once communism fell, the two lens companies rejoined and became Jenaoptics. However, even though they are the sponsor for Jessie’s project they would not supply him with lenses for his camera obscura.

We run to catch the last train returning to Weimar and Jessie further explains how light works. Granted Jessie is not a photographer, but the kid studied Physics, I mean come on. So as light is being projected into the box, light is also being projected out of the box. Which means that when one stands in the camera, their image is being projected out into the sky, invisible to the naked eye of course. Regardless, we live in a funnel like world of give and takes, push and pull, and sometimes even inverted images on boxes.

So take a bow everyone, you’ve succeded in reading another long NFF and gaining a new international friend. This is Jessie Hemminger.